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Boris Johnson’s latest gaffe defended by Rifkind as he blasts SNP’s bid to ‘break Union’ | Politics | News

The Prime Minister was reported as telling a meeting of Tory MPs that devolution in Scotland was Tony Blair’s “biggest mistake”. But former Scotland Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind defended ‘s intentions as he blasted the for relentlessly trying to break the United Kingdom with independence referenda. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the former Tory MP said: “I’m afraid this is rather typical of the loose language that Boris Johnson occasionally uses. I suspect there are two things he was almost certainly meaning to say.

“He was quoted saying it was ‘Tony Blair’s disaster’ and of course, from the point of view of the Labour Party in Scotland it was a total disaster.

“The creation of the Scottish assembly was meant to lead to the end of the SNP and the end of nationalism. It actually led to the end of the Labour Party in Scotland who are now behind the Tories, which in my days would have been inconceivable.”

He added: “The other point, a more fundamental point for what’s happening at the moment, is that the way the SNP who control the Scottish Parliament is operating is they’re being pretty useless when it comes to Scottish education and domestic issues.

“They’ve been obsessed with the demands for referendums and keep having referendums.

“Neverendums until they hopefully win independence.

READ MORE: Sturgeon told stop independence ‘obsession’ as Boris blasts devolution

“So the whole issue about the good Government of Scotland has been distorted by this obsession of taking it to the ultimate stage of breaking up the United Kingdom.”

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick also denied that Boris Johnson regards Scottish devolution as a “disaster”.

Asked if, Mr Johnson regarded devolution in Scotland as a “disaster”, Mr Jenrick told Sky News: “That is not what the Prime Minister was saying.

“The Prime Minister has always supported devolution but he is at heart a unionist and he is very troubled by the rise of nationalism and separatism.

“Whilst in some parts of the United Kingdom devolution has enabled local people to have greater say over their own destinies, one of the downsides in Scotland has been that it has been misused by the SNP to drive a wedge between those who want to be part of the same country with hundreds of years of history and friendship.

“The PM is very concerned about that. The disaster the Prime Minister is referring to is the rise of separatism and nationalism in the form of the SNP.”

The Prime Minister was also reported saying he does not currently “see a case” for giving the devolved government in Edinburgh any more powers from London.

The past 14 opinion surveys have shown that a majority of Scots now support independence after a series of missteps by Mr Johnson’s Government over its response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Scots rejected independence by 55 to 45 percent in a 2014 referendum but a five-year political crisis in London over Brexit and the COVID-19 outbreak have strained the bonds that tie the United Kingdom together.

While the United Kingdom as a whole voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay while England and Wales voted to leave.

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is pushing for another independence referendum, criticised Johnson’s comments.

“Worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories say they’re not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament – or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers,” her tweet said.

The only way to protect and strengthen the Scottish Parliament is with independence, she added.

Under the UK’s delicate constitutional balance, semi-autonomous parliaments and governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland known as the devolved administrations have powers over areas like education, health, policing and justice.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross tweeted, saying devolution is not a disaster.

“Devolution has not been a disaster. The SNP’s non-stop obsession with another referendum – above jobs, schools and everything else – has been a disaster,” he said on Twitter.



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